Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 27, 2017

A Letter I May Write to A Man I Know, A Kind of Examen


How are you?

There are plenty of books and essays about the “art” of writing letters; and all different kinds of letters, too.  I remember being schooled in the fine art of writing the several kinds when I was in Primary School, at St. John the Evangelist Parochial School in Kingsbridge, in The Bronx.  (Now, I will bet that up until the last two words in the previous sentence someone who did not know me well might have half formed the thought that I came from a pretty high class place.  Truth is, I grew up in The City when it still had a fairly broad mixture of different classes of folks, at a time when The City was a vary large and very wonderful place to grow up in, full of playgrounds, parks, museums, gardens, zoos and Broadway; before it became more or less an exclusive home for the rich and the striving and the selfish and the sinful.  I haven’t been there in years.  The closest I get now is the Tappan Zee Bridge.)

Anyway, did you know that I wrote a letter to the President a few years ago, my first one to a powerful guy which was not on “official paper” warning my correspondent that the sky would fall on him and ruin attend all his days unless I heard by return mail he was going to do what I wanted him to do.  Not that my letter to the Chief Executive was an humble one, begging blessings on himself and all of his comings, goings and doings.  No this was a dignified and temperate reaming in which I made use of all of those things concerning form and content which Mother Teresa of Avila, RJM, who was a good ball player, taught me during Letter Writing 101. It was a letter she would have been proud of,  in which I took issue with something he had decided not to do, the Hambone.

Two years later, I got his reply; as prompt a reply, I suppose, as the template for Sportin’ Life could provide.  At least it was of enough use to hold the next morning’s coffee grounds.  But, of course, he came from Chicago, where they did not, I guess, talk about the “courtesy of a reply” in school.  He’s headed back there I understand.  The only thing I have to say about that is, “Be careful.”  The place is becoming as dangerous as parts of Mosul used to be.

Yesterday, I wrote another letter.  It was to a fellow I know who works nearby at a small school, a college named after a Catholic Saint who lost his head in an argument with a king…his. He was a man for all of that.  The fellow I wrote to is all of those things you’ve seen a million times in the movies about life the way it could be, portraying what good guys should be.  He’s younger by an age than I am, better and more broadly educated, a good father, and husband, witty, at ease with himself and the world; a man in other words who does what needs doing, when it needs doing.  Well, once upon a time you used to see guys like that in the movies. Guys who could wear a suit, tie a tie, ride a horse, lasso a calf, dance with a pretty girl; guys who had no tattoos or didn’t walk with a swish.

He’s replied already.

I am not to sure what the movies do with men these days.  Frankly, I’m more than a little afraid to see a newly made film; without some holy water around just in case I need to splash it on the screen.  But, I did go to the movies with my wife and brother-in-law a few weeks ago.  I watched something that involved a lot of flying people, fire, noise, more noise, more fire, explosions everywhere and often, more noise, weird costumes and lots of phony wisecracks so to let us all know that real men (and women) don’t sweat the small stuff.  I think it ended with everyone patting everyone else on the back and smiling.  The characters could not have been based on anyone real.  No one real would wear what they wore in public and in daylight, or be able to do what they did.  Frankly, I don’t know what the plot was, or how it resolved itself; or even if there was a plot.  There was certainly no reason for it to be, or lessons learned from it; except possibly to bring ear plugs to the picture show next time. They all, in some way or another, flew about, lifting things like tugboats and buildings high up in the air, got angry and destroyed larger things as they pursued what in God’s name I never could figure out…and these were the “good guys” and the “good girls”.  We were there on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

The place was packed.  It reminded me of the Fourth of July when I was a kid, and some of us got firecrackers and rockets, went to some empty lot and set them off; or of what happened after Christmas was over, when we collected all the dried Christmas trees and made huge bonfires while we yelled and cheered the fire like little savages; a term more than once used by my mother, may she rest in peace, to describe me and the guys I hung around with.

It reminded me, too, of all the windows we broke and interior walls we destroyed in the many abandoned buildings that grew all around us during the 1960’s, that period of “urban renewal” that never seems to have ended.  Only now, fences are erected and capped with barbed wire to keep out kids like I was.  They say it’s to prevent injuries, and the inevitable lawsuits..  What it’s really there to prevent are things I don’t like thinking about.

The sun is up, now, and the coffee’s ready.  I’m going to see the doctor today and I have to get busy figuring out all those things I need to tell her in their proper order; the things that ache when I sit, the things that ache when I stand, and the things that just ache, or are just starting to ache. That’s an awfully long list, and getting longer as time limps on.  Maybe I should bring a sandwich with me.

But before I sign off I wonder if I can ask you a favor.  I was asked a little while ago to help out with a kind of project.  This is a project to help guys, kids really, become men.

One of the things I’ve been thinking might help them along is to show them what being a man is through the experiences of others who’ve gone the same way, taken that “less traveled path” if what we have for current patterns of manhood is any indication, guys like yourself who have no “tats”, can’t fly and know how to dance.  I’ve already approached a bunch of guys I know, and most of them have taken the ride with me; written their stories in short essays.  We have got some real good men around us.  They don’t wear funny clothes or blow things up.  But, boy, they are men.

Odd, isn’t it, that last sentence.

Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll give you the details.


Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 7, 2017

Birds, Beethoven, Chesterton and Communion

This is the kind of thing I will do when I find the time is quiet and the place is empty.  I scribbled this on a piece of paper one day in June this year while I was sitting outside watching the sun come up, and listening to some music.  It was the 25th.


Up on the roof peak facing woods and water

Landed a bird just as the music began.

“Could he hear it,” I wondered, listening to

Beethoven flowing out the door, wind soughing

Through the trees, the soft steady stroke of oars

Marching upstream that old man in the morning makes

At his daily test of current wrestling stamina

Against water and time flowing by.


The bird is not like any I have seen before;

Not much more than a sparrow, and tree bark brown

All over, except for a dull orange “bib” around chest and “chin”.

I know birds have no chin, but no other word seems right

Given his position on the peak. Well, maybe scarf, bandana,

Balaclava, the things commanders wear.


Oh, well, there you have it.


As I watch him, my peaked friend, he notices me.

Keen, he eyes me down here. Chesterton on my lap

Ignored for a moment, I watch him. He looks away

To the river bordering trees. I follow his turn of head and see

All the deep shadows, the lighter meadows of sun above,

The colors match him who would never be seen

In these deep cool places. What a clever fellow

I marvel, to grow light all around him to wear.


Smiling at this revelation I look again at him who

Puffs himself and gives out the most gentle, subtle call

Ever I have heard any bird give. One more glance

And he is gone, disappearing into shadow shapes

In the middle not fifty yards from me.


I wait to be sure then pick up Chesterton as Beethoven

Continues soft inside. It is his Third Symphony, The Eroica,

Which some say he wrote for Napoleon. Maybe so.

But I think that poor fellow would not have seen the point,

Or accepted the gift if it was a fact.


The deaf composer in his silence has conquered more

Than the little Corsican, and ruled longer.


I’ll watch the trees in the afternoon

Sweep the wind like a great green broom

Sweep the clouds across the sky.

Softly, silently.






Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 9, 2017


We traveled to Detroit not too long ago to attend the wedding of Elisabeth and Robert, who became Mr. and Mrs. Medvitz.  Now, I had heard about Detroit, and visited it once or twice.  I had heard about it “coming back”.

Don’t believe a word!  Detroit is a ruin.  But then, so are a lot of other places around the world, not ancient ruins like parts of Rome, or jungle covered pyramids in the Yucatan.  These are ruins from yesterday, on the way to becoming bigger ruins tomorrow.  And, Detroit, I think is the “poster boy” for ruin.

Oh, yes, there are shiny things down near the lake, sparkling things, tall things, big things, new things; down near the lake.  But, people don’t live there.  There is nothing, really to live in, or for, except tall shininess and wide ribbons of concrete which can only lead you in or out, and never about, never around and never leisurely, never quietly.  It is not made for visiting the folks down the block. They come and go, the people who don’t live there, like the tide, every eight or so hours.  Persons don’t live there.  Well, possibly executives do in high suites atop the shiny towers from whose windows they can see into the future, and plan more shiny buildings. Children don’t live there.  Where would they play?

Isn’t that a ruin?

But, they really are shiny, those things.

The wedding of Elisabeth and Robert took place far away from the shiny new things on a sunny summer morning in a beautiful stone church set in a little tree lined oasis along a a wide road that ran through a shattered emptiness of weed covered lots and derelict buildings.  The wide road could have accommodated ten times the traffic it carried on that bright and empty morning.  Maybe it did not so long ago.  Every once in a while a weary reminder of what had been came into view, a relic of the past.  These were mostly gas stations and loan stores or liquor stores; sometimes both.  The latter might have been Mom and Pop places not so long ago when Detroit was alive.

And then, the church: The Assumption Grotto Church on Gratiot Avenue, in the middle of the wasted land.  It was built in 1881, an example of Renaissance and Gothic Revival architecture, before Detroit had died and before churches, too, and a lot of things connected with churches, started weakening, sickening and dying. This church looks like what it is, a place where people go to worship. When a church is built today, it could as well look like a train station, a supermarket, an auto dealership or a “metroplex”; one of those movie theaters which can show thirty films in separate cozy little places with surround sound and reclining seats…the churches of the future, where we worship what we want.

The inside of the church was every bit as wonderful and magnificent as the outside.  And the wedding of Elisabeth and Robert was beautiful, too, celebrated in Latin with plenty of reverent silence.  Perhaps this was so because the couple and the happy guests had not themselves become ruined.  Ruins today are rarely silent, rarely quiet, rarely abandoned.  Though I have found that ruins, modern ones like Detroit, are almost always overgrown and spooky.

Anyway, after the reception at a nearby KofC Hall, we said our goodbyes and drove back to the hotel  where we were staying, perhaps a dozen of so miles away.  We were no longer in Detroit.  We were in 21st century America, bright, shiny and already not a little dead.

We were on our own for the next day, Sunday, before our 8:00pm flight back to New Hampshire, and had some leisure to see a sight or two; to learn where were the “not ruins”.  This is what we did after Mass, which took place in an absolutely lovely church set among flowered gardens and spouting fountains. A lovely place.  It was a modern church or course, but not so modern that one could not tell the difference between it and a City Hall.  The only off putting thing was the amazing proliferation of “ministers” extraordinary, marching about, standing at fixed posts and being, well, extraordinary. Think of The Wizard of Oz.  It took me a while to figure out who, and where, the Priest was who was the only person necessary for the celebration, whose role and demeanor reminded me from time to time of the Wizard himself.  There was a marked contrast between this and the wedding on the previous day; such busyness that at times I wondered if I was at a parade and not a Mass.  I half expected bands and floats.

Mass over we returned to our hotel, checked out after breakfast and then set off to explore the living parts of the place we were in.  We found that there were plenty in the comfortable towns outside the “Dead” city; miles of winding roads through what seemed to me nearly new communities, and which I suspected, by the size and newness of the places housed not a few of the shiny people who worked in the shiny towers of Detroit, but did not live there; the people who passed through the ruins every day, who very probably had driven by a Renaissance and Gothic Revival Church, and just as very likely had driven right by it while tuned to “All Things Considered” five days a week for years.

We had chosen to visit a place out in these lovely surroundings which we had determined was  easy on the eyes, the feet and the budget.  The Cranbrook House and Gardens and the nearby Cranbrook Institute of Art, both located on Lone Pine Road in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  You just have to know that anything with “Hills” in its name is NOT going to be a ruin.  So, this really fit the bill.  Some fellow with a lot of money built the gardens, and they were and are worth the time he spent building them and we spent visiting his work.  It would take an Africanus and a lot of salt to really kill gardens like these.  They were alive!

Do not waste your time on the art thing, though.  It isn’t.  The big front yard looks as if a couple of oil drilling rigs were erected on them, and painted red.  So, I supposed red oil rigs had now become art.  It is, not to be too critical, a ruin, bright, big and shiny…and a ruin.

There was only a small bit of the “museum” open the day we got there.  Thank God!  And, if the small bit is an indication of what the students at the institute are being taught about art, felonies are being committed on young minds.  My own impression is that the lumps and clumps displayed proudly under bright lights looked like lava, or a cow’s best impression of it, and my one word reaction was “Hellish”.  A student in Florence trying to do something like that would…  Well no student would try to do such things in Florence back in the day.  But, we ain’t in Florence anymore, Toto.  And, none of the rules we thought applied simply do not.  A couple of samples are linked to the Institute title above.

I read an article in “The Catholic Thing” today, an online journal that mostly enlightens me, and sometimes, like today, makes me wonder if I am not in some Breughel painting tumbling into hell with everyone else when I combine what I have read with recent memories.  Today’s article, Art For The Soul, begins with a lead in, tone setting quote:  “May your art help to affirm that true beauty which, as a glimmer of the Spirit of God, will transfigure matter, opening the human soul to the sense of the eternal.”

It really is a lovely article, and I cannot help wondering why I had to think of Detroit while reading it, or why the sentence, “Fine words for the inferno we face.” kept running through my mind as I read.  But they did.  Or why I continue to think of “On The Beach.”  We have, living in the ruins, lost “the sense of the eternal.”

And then I think of the reason we were in Detroit and say, “Not all of us.”

Anyway, Elisabeth and Robert are not living among the ruins.  No they are on a farm, a living place, transfiguring matter, where children, and plants and animals bloom and grow; where the only uniforms are overalls and smiles and work hardened limbs, and life  A place where the only tall and shining things are the rays of the rising or the setting sun and the light on the blossoms..



Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 19, 2017


It is Easter! Still Easter.  I know many of you think that Easter was over at sundown on Sunday.  But, no.  The Feast, the Holy Season, lasts until Pentecost which follows hard on the heels of the Feast of the Ascension.

So, there!

It’s a wonderful time of the year, and a wonderful day within it.  I was passed by a young woman today while walking across a green sward who smilingly wished me, “Happy Easter!”  I returned the greeting with my own smile and walked on, thinking about Easter and Pentecost.  And, when I returned home I got involved in something I don’t usually do, writing some prayers for a Mass to take place at a retreat.

While looking for some paper on which to doodle about the prayers, I came across something I had written a long time ago; about 30 years ago.  Odd it should be that number.

It was just about 30 years ago, give or take, that Sheila Marie Welby Gallaher was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She survived for fourteen more years.  But, we both knew that the odds were against all the actuarial tables.  She would leave me earlier than  what I thought was necessary and right; earlier than the actuarial tables have ordained.  Aren’t men supposed to die first according to all of those things?

For the next several months, as we grew accustomed to this New Fact!, I spent a lot of time wondering why, what had I done. We Catholics call this an Examination of Conscience; taking stock, going over our assets and our, well, lack of them.  And from that, we are supposed to do our best through prayer and , well again, do our best with the grace of God to put things in order.  To, as my father used to tell me, “Straighten up and fly right!”

I sometimes wonder if that was the reason Sheila was “taken home” so soon.  She had finished her training here, gotten her wings and flew away Home.  And me?  I get to stay after school.

Anyway, during that time I wrote the little thing below.

I came across it while engaged on another assignment for the folks preparing a retreat for a group we belong to called the Families of Nazareth; an “approved ecclesial foundation” was born in Poland just about the time that Sheila and I were learning to live, and eventually die, with cancer.  It has grown into an international movement of people who, more or less, happen to think that God is crazily in love with them.

Like I said, I found this buried among some old papers I was searching through for ideas about these prayers we had been asked to write.  All that remained in my memory of the thing was the first line, “What have you got that you haven’t been given?  Nothing more.  No title, and. certainly, no “poem”.  I stopped for a moment to read it, and all of those other things connected with it came back.

Funny how that stuff works, isn’t it?

You see, it was just about this time of the year I think that Sheila experienced her second, let’s call it “metastatic episode”; where she suddenly felt pain in her spine and hips.  The doctors told her that she could take no more radiation.  Don’t ask me why, but, she was in no condition to repeat the experience anyway.  If you know about the death of St. Lawrence, you may get an idea of the thinking behind her decision. Her options were limited, things like bone marrow transplant, and experimental chemotherapy were about all that remained; or rattles and dancing.  We went so far as to schedule an appointment with the U. Mass. bone marrow center in Worcester.  I remember the day well, and the drive home, shortly after arriving, seeing the people who were waiting with her and having a brief conversation with one of the doctors.  Call them incredibly courageous or just as desperate, but Sheila was not interested in what was required and the chances of success, as so we left.

Her oncologist, next suggested a recently cleared new chemotherapy; one which gave her a twenty percent chance of completing the course of treatment successfully.  She would be at home, and I would be near, having retired just a few months before.  That is what we did.  Well, she did.  I watched, waited and wished; practicing as well as i could the “ministry of presence.”

She endured it for about three months and then told the doctor that enough was enough.

On the way home we had a nice meal at a local restaurant.  I don’t think she ate that much at one time again.  It was, actually, her last supper.

Finding what follows has brought back those memories; not that they are ever far away.

It’s nice, in a way knowing that this wasn’t lost.  It’s a kind of talisman; reminding me of what was and what could be, and to pay attention to that fact.


What do you have that you haven’t been given?

How did you get here at all?

For all that you have can you give any reason?

How do you stand?  How will you fall?

Now that you’re here, where are you going?

And how are you going to go?

When you get there at last what will you be doing?

How are you going to know?

What will you take for the journey you’re making

How will you choose what is right?

How can you be sure that you’re walking towards day?

That it actually isn’t the night?

What have you got that you haven’t been given?

How are you dealing with that?

Can you think of what happened before you were living?

Do you know if it’s true or it’s false?

How can you know that at all?

Can you think of a time when or where you are not?

Can you of yourself be here and be now?

Can you freeze any moment you’re in?

Are there forces before which you only can Bow?

Have you knowledge, or virtue, or sin?

Are you grateful for all that you think that you have?

Are you sad you yet haven’t much more?

Fi you fail of your goal with what will you salve

Whatever it is you call soul?

What have you now that you haven’t been given?

What will you get of your own?

Is your goal just in making you way in the world

As far as your own will may take you?

How will that end when at last you are curled

At life’s edge and realize all is forsaken?

What then will you do with all you’ve been given

Hungering for peace at the last,

When finally you have all for which you’ve striven

And know only all you have lost,

Something you thought you had , but you hadn’t,

Something that’s slipped through your hands,

And looking at life see nothing but sadness,

Knowing all you have gathered is sand.


Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 7, 2017

Rushmore in the Rain


Gentles, the river that runs beside the house is about four feet from flood tide.  It rained like hell the past three or four days, and washed away two or three feet of snow just rotting horribly everywhere.  It’s nice to see that go, but…   There was more upstream than here, and it’s on the way now.

Springtime in Cow Hampshire, even in the cities.  It’s Mud Season, too, soon to be followed by Black Fly Season.  I remember being up in the Northeast Kingdom many years ago for a few days breaking balls with a couple of state cops.  I made the mistake of wearing shoes, when everyone else was wearing something Dan’l Boone would feel right at home in; something shot and skinned only a few months before.  Ain’t nothing prettier than a toothless, fuzzy footed, old guy or girl.  Well, you never really know.  You know?.

Anyway, the bride and I were on the way home after looking for the New Hampshire Queen, rumored to be sailing over the falls in the Nashua River.  (Remind me to tell you about the fresh water sharks which spawn up river just about now.)  It was raining, of course.  Down by the freight yards, where most of the illegals live in abject poverty, we drove past four men standing on the street.  It took only seconds.  They could have been anywhere in age from 30 to 80.  I saw a lot of these guys when I was in Ohio, too, some even fishing on the Muskingum.

One of them looked at me and I looked at him.

I had what follows mostly finished by the time we got home, and thought I would share it with youse.  Think of us on the Harlem



He was a boy once, and with his friends ran

Up hills and down.  His thick legs, his arms sun

Browned.  His broad bright face, his smile like sunrise

In the long gone time when he was so young.


Now he stands statue still on the cold street

In company with three old men;

The four a living Rushmore in the rain;

Relics, monuments, time and rain chiseled

Hardly noticed.  There are no tourists here

No rest stops, photographs or souvenirs.


No, it’s just my wife and I passing by

To another place from another place

Us in our car in the cold April rain.


I see-him in his rough clothes, his rough face

From which all but his eyes youth’s erased.

The rest a skin weathered cliff, gray, deep creased.


Through rain spattered glass we meet..  Our old eyes

Link and hold a second, two.  We both smile

And in cold rain run old hills a while.

PEG    4/7/17



Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 1, 2017

TODAY: MARCH 1, 2017

St. Leo the Great, who was a pope a few centuries back, said this in one of his sermons:

Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvellous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from the intelligent creation a fitting expression of its gratitude.

I read it a few years ago, and it has stuck with me, on some level for quite a while.  I’ll read it again tomorrow morning in the Office of Readings.  I like the way he addresses us as “Dear Friends”.  I like the rest of what he says.

The sun, could I see it now, would , we might say, be almost at the Meridian.  I know nothing of Latin, and little more of anything else, but I think that word means something like mid-day.  In fact it lacks five minutes of Noon on a cloudy, slightly drizzly day.  I wonder now if Noon is a word we have from Latin.  But, I suspect not.  I think it may be of Northern European origin .  It has a dour sound, sounds a dreary note, and to my mind perfectly suits the Northern European zeitgeist.  Now there’s a word no one would mistake for have an origin in the Mediterranean.

All of this is quite odd for the first day of March, that month which is said to “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb”, that month named for the Roman god of war, Mars.  It is also the first day of Lent, a word that has a whole bunch of relatives in Northern Europe, most of them having to do with Spring, the time when the days grow longer and, according to Chaucer, at least in April, the rain’s supposed to pierce the drought of Mars to the root.

If that’s the case the times, they are a’changing; today at least.  We have another three weeks of winter before us according to the calendar; and the length of days, the way the seasons are measured in the earth’s yearly swing around the sun, means  we still have three weeks to the Vernal Equinox on March 20 and the start of Spring and all that root piercing.  But Holy Church says, “Nope, Pilgrim, Lent (“Spring”) starts here this year.”

OK.  Welcome Spring!

Of course, those six or seven of you reading this, and who have gotten this far; those of you who are still familiar with the Holy Season of Lent, who might still consider it a season of preparation, of spiritual preparation particularly, for Easter, are probably murmuring, scratching your heads and wondering just what am I up to.  Have I a point to this?  Will a conclusion be reached?

I respond: Must there be a conclusion to everything?

But, wait.  I do have a conclusion of a sort.  The river not too far from here, the one I can see so swollen with snows and rains that it runs over its banks, is receding slowly, slimming down as it were from having been filled beyond capacity by those very snows, those torrential rains of a few days ago.  My wife and I watched it fill, and watched the rough waters flow swiftly downstream carrying branches and sometimes whole trees along the way to the sea.  More rain falls today.  But, I trust the spring.  I do.

Ask me why, and there probably isn’t a reason beyond something to do with my faith.  I know about floods and bad weather, and headlines telling the story of great damage to lives and property around this time of year.  But, darn it, I can’t think of anything more than the solidity of faith about this.  It’s my dike, my dam that won’t fail.  It’s lent, for heaven’s sake, and mine, and Easter’s my destination.

I believe.

So should you. This is all under control, and what that lady long ago said, the one in England, is true.  All will be well.  And March, that mad month?  March will see lions and lambs together, and so shall we.

PS:  I found out that I was wrong about that word Noon.  It’s not a cold and miserable northern European word.  It’s from the Latin, from their word for nine, and was used in the early church to signify a time of prayer.  So, it’s kind of a sacred word, a warm word, a safe word; like Lent and Spring.  Ain’t nothing to worry about.


Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 15, 2016

The News Once Fit to Print

Here is an interesting article, despite one or two awkward editorial oversights.  It is interesting for not a few reasons.  Of course, you will not recognize, from the millions of words poured into our minds which directly oppose the portrait here made of him, the man we know now as pope Pius XII.  Wasn’t he the Jew hater?  Didn’t he have supper with Hitler?  And now, this????  That’s one reason.

You will also not recognize the current form of what was once called The Newspaper of Record; the New York Times from the things you read once printed on its editoral pages. And, there’s another reason.

Today’s Times bears a decided resemblance to the propaganda sheets once called simply “Truth” and “News” that gave the poor souls trying to live in their Worker’s  Paradise all the news that their masters thought fit to print; news which had no connection at all with truth or news.

Things Catholic, things Christian, things simply decent and human are rarely treated now, and may, soon, no longer be treated with the approval and respect you will read in the excerpts mentioned in the article.

I wonder now when the last time was that the New York Times took an editorial position that was even remotely favorable of anything the Catholic Church has said or done.

It seems to me that for the most part the reaction over there at the Gray Lady to things Catholic comes in one of the following forms, sniggering, mocking, outright opposition, disdain and the occasional nodding acknowledgement along the lines of, “Oh, yes, Catholics have been known to do this, too.”

Or, they write stories, humorous ones in their style pages assuming a mildly mocking, mildly astonished reaction that Catholics still do this, that, or, whatever.  They still forbid infanticide.  They still think marriage should be for life and only then between a man and a woman.

This is the Catholic Church, mind you, which those who look out on the world from the high towers of the Times, wish would wither, go away or be done away.  The same Catholic Church that gave the Western World its civilization. And, this is the same world now committing seppuku; disemboweling itself to a discordant haiku of rap and rock with a ceremonial “Tanto”(seppuku knife) forged of an alloy of progressivism, transgenderism, diversity, queer theory, radical feminism, intolerant tolerance and denial.  And all the while, at the Gray Lady, they sip a fine single malt.


George Marlin on ongoing smears of Pius XII and Hitler, ably refuted by Peter Bartley’s new book “Catholics Confronting Hitler.”
Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 27, 2016

Time and Time Again

Right now the clock on the wall over my left shoulder reads that it is 9:30.  The thing in the lower right hand of the screen I sit facing registers 3:17, and adds, in bold capital letters, PM.  Which should I choose, I wonder?  I choose neither, right now.  Right now time doesn’t matter, its passing by or waiting to approach in a line seemingly endless, but which, I am certain, has an end.  Don’t all lines?      Isn’t that part of the nature of a line?  What would one be  called had it no beginning or no end?  Certainly time’s line ends, as it certainly had a beginning.  There are those who say it was …at a certain moment before which it wasn’t, and will end… at another one, when we do not know, and then it will not be.  And there are differences of opinion about time’s starting point among folks.  Some say it has been going on for either 13 billion and others hold out for a much shorter 6 thousand years give or take.  They remind me of my two clocks… one of one mind and one of another.  But that’s a discussion for another day…and who’s to say, as in the case of my two clocks, that both opinions aren’t entirely the correct ones.

What will there be of time when it has ended?  Some say nothing. And others say well, maybe.  It may indeed end and start up again. Or, at least, it may not be the “Time” we have come to know and to think ourselves to be be, sometimes, prisoners of and in. That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a little while, time that expands and contracts, speeds up and slows down.

Of course, time measured on my rather scatter brained clock hanging on the wall beside/behind me moves slowly in a circle and not a line, a circle with no beginning and no end, a circle simply repeating over and over what was once and will be again, making two complete turns around through the twelve numbers in a full day.  I rarely look at the clock and cannot tell if it has sprung a gear and stopped at 9:30 there to stay for, well, only God knows how long, while some other part of its machinery faithfully and futilely ticks on; and soothingly so, I might add. I pay it no attention.

But I often look at the poem I have hung on the wall below it.  It is called Pangur Ban, and was written by an Irish monk in a monastery somewhere on the Continent about a thousand years ago, about his white cat and himself, going about their different but “special” art; the White Cat “joyous with swift jumping” after mice, the monk joyous in his turn when he has “grasped the elusive but well loved problem.”

I grasp no well loved problems, nor jump after elusive mice, here in this quiet room. I watch the leaves turn, fall and grow again, and the river flow by the river banks and arcing trees above, listen to the birds and wait.  I suspect most guys my age do that.

There is a comfort I have long felt in the rhythm of the clock on the wall.  I remember the one on the night table in my parent’s room, and how it sounded on these mornings when a little me climbed into their bed to lay between them. So I like the steady battery powered tick of the clock on the wall.

This thing on the screen is silent.  Bits and bytes make no sound.  They just appear, programmed, without any meaning or purpose other than information. of which we have, I think, just too much these days for comfort.  I sometimes think that when we invented clocks and divided time as we have, we were making the same mistake we had made in trying to build that tower to heaven all those years ago.  Weren’t the periods of light and dark, the turnings of the seasons, enough? How much more accurate a count of passing time will we need?  “The setting sun now dies away/ And darkness comes at close of day.” begins the song that we sing at evening prayer once every four weeks.  Looking out the window I often find the words singing themselves as I watch the shadows grow.

You want to know the truth, though?   I would miss that reminder over my shoulder, a gentle thing all in all, that there is still something left to do, something left to see, and, after all the odd elusive but well loved problem to occupy men at leisure.  We would all miss, too, what we have made of the time piece, a work of art and ingenuity, whose value, really, is not so much in measuring moments, and promoting drudgery as it in letting us know when to stop, look and listen, and rest, and think, and play.  There’s where we’ve gotten lost, I think, in first proposing, then doing and in evermore accepting that something, anything, can and should last 24/7, leaving no room for just “spending” time.  Spending time on any elusive but well loved problem, or just chasing a mouse.  My friend the monk lived by the bells that rung out in his monastery calling all to prayer and work and rest.  A thousand years later his brothers live the same way, and until recently, so did everyone else.  They had both clocks and bells on the ships I sailed long ago when I was young.  I lived by the bells though, ringing the watch changes day and night…around the clock.  Sometimes I’ll look at a clock and treanslate the time into bells ringing.

Another hymn, comparing time to an ever rolling stream, runs through my mind.  Down that river we all sail, don’t you know.  Thinking about the ocean we are headed for is, by turns, an exciting, pleasing and just a bit scary thought.  But, we remember who calms the storms, don’t we?  And whose hand is on the wheel.  Who tolls the bell.


Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 15, 2016

Today, October 15, 2016

The birds have been hungry for several days flitting back and forth to the several feeders we have outside, searching for a meal, and finding none, glancing, sometimes we imagine rather annoyed in the direction of our windows. Chickadees and Titmice, especially, are quick to show their disapproval with a few angry tweets and chitters.

Mariellen worries about our reputation among them and their condition.  The weather is turning.  I sat this morning, after arising late from a rare night of good sleep watching showers of leaves fall on the sun spread grass just outside. This new home of ours keeps the seasons punctually.  By that I mean we are in a position under the sun to be able better than anywhere else I can remember living to keep watch on its progress up and down the horizon in the morning, and the shift, the stretch of shadows over us as twilight comes.  By five PM now, the back yard is almost completely in shadow.  The cocktail bell has rung, and the fire, on many evenings is lit, burning warmly in its place, and welcome.

I must remind myself to go across the street into the wooded area between the road and the railroad tracks and cut some kindling from the fallen saplings.  We took down a dying ash this summer and have a fair amount of firewood aging over there, probably home now to a chipmunk or two, soon to be fuel for cozy evenings over here.  Sorry chipmunks.  It’s mine.  You eat enough of our flowers to keep yourselves warm all year round..

I like this new place down by the riverside.  We’ve been here about a year and it gets better by the day.  It’s quiet, of course, except for the odd dog’s bark during their walks, and during the warm months the boats and jet skis zipping by.  But those noises are pleasant ones.  The early morning jets soughing into Manchester not twenty miles away upstream are a reminder that the day has begun.  Their return at around ten in the evening signal a close to the day.  I like, too, sitting outside in the afternoon toward dusk watching contrails slipping north and south, jets skating across the sky going to and coming back from Europe, and imagining what adventures are waiting, what welcomes on the other side of the doors in arrivals rooms of a hundred airports each day here and there for ten thousand tourists, family members, business men.  Every once in a while, rays of sun bounce off one of them, flying everest high, and they flash like jewels in the twilight, soundless slipping away.

Especially, now, though, mornings are a mystery time as the river’s fog steals across the lawn, leaving slowly, languidly, with the rising sun.  From times like this must have come the images of sprites and fairies, river gods and goddesses and mystery.

We have trains, too.  No passenger services go by the house on the tracks not fifty yards from the front door, but three or four times a week we get great rumbles of trains going slowly by, huge things that you feel in your feet and chest as much as you hear going by.  Powerful diesels, scores of coal carriers, or flat bed cars piled with great logs, or simply freight cars locked and loaded with goods for the north or from the north going by in minster like pomp and parade.  I feel like a kid when they come and never fail to go to the window to peek at their rumbling steady passing.

There were two yesterday, and that is a treat; two rumbles like nothing so much as a herd of metal elephants passing.

It’s mid afternoon as I write this, now, an it’s been quiet for a while.  No leaves fall as they did in the morning.  The sun’s practically gone behind the trees, and not a breeze stirs a thing.  I’ll have a cup of tea, and pick up a book, sit by the window and watch the river slide by while the shadows lengthen.  I’ll start a fire after getting some of the kindling I “harvested” from the woods, and we’ll sit watching our favorite show on the Fireplace Channel.

Wish you were here.




Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 1, 2016

Today, August 1, 2016

It is Monday at about 1:30 in the afternoon.  It’s stopped raining, though it never really was raining.  Spitting is the word my mother would use long ago when the world was young.  And, now, what might become rain hangs in the air, an invisible curtain of moolecules, (I love the typo), waiting to coat everything with a film of moisture just short of wet.

It is cool, and the sky is stuffed with clouds, bumps and soft humps of them; blue-gray cotton cushion clouds hanging, packed side to side, front to back above and still, paused like sheep waiting for the gate to open. There’s no menace.  There might be if there was a breath of a breeze; but the wind’s sleeping, stretched out above them with its hands behind its head and its legs crossed at the ankles, I suppose, on the sunny side.

Behind the scrim of trees across the road that goes by the front of our home are the railroad tracks, and beyond the railroad tracks where two or three freights go rumbling by each week; long ones you can feel shuddering through your chest, beating a slow click…..clack as the wheels crawl along rails which squeak occasionally, squeaking under the load of coal going north and wood going south; behind that scrim, beyond those tracks, the only sound but birds at the feeders in the front and back of the house is of the crew at work clearing the power company’s right of way.  “That’s men,” I found myself thinking, thumping, buzzing, pounding, clanging, humming; men and their tools.  Men, doing what comes naturally.

Occasionally one hears a deep “THUMP!”, the sound of a felled tree.  Then comes the angry buzz of a chain saw.  Then comes the sputter and the roar, the hungry, deeper roar of a wood chipper.  Another tree is being eaten.

And, the trees stand silent.  And the river, quiet and still, flows past my window, beyond the meadow now thick with wild vines and and all manner of little animals beneath them sleeping the day away until night falls and they come out; animals I know are there but which I have never seen; they come out to sniff and eat and wander by the houses set all in a row along the bank above the vine covered meadow by the river’s edge.

They sometimes eat the blossoms of the flowers my wife has planted, and the tender new leaves; eat the blossoms and leaves of the flowers in all the neighbors’ gardens.   Those beautiful things we like to see, and the animals think nothing of eating them during the silent, dark night.  In the evenings when we come back outside, when the others from their homes come back outside, we might talk about almost anything; but what we talk about quite often are the animals who come by at night and eat the flower petals and the tender leaves, then go back down into their dens beneath the vines and wild weeds and sleep, bellies full of the work we’ve done to feed them.

All of that is good. After all, wasn’t it good then?  I mean, well, you know…

Elsewhere, I suppose, great things are happening; great and important things.  And, later on, when the sun has set, and the lights are on inside, and the vine covered meadow has the cloud covered moon alone to bathe it, my neighbors will turn on the TV and learn about the great and important things.  Some of it may worry them.  Some of it may make them annoyed.  Some of it, I hope, will make them smile and be happy they are who they are, where they are and with whom they are.

That will be good, too.

This morning I wrote this on my Facebook page:  “Speak less.  Think more.”  My wife, bless her heart replied: “Think more.  Pray more.”


Here is something to think more about, and perhaps pray more because of it:

The hymn they are singing goes by the name of “Dies Irae”..  It is part of the Catholic Funeral Mass, the “Sequence”, particularly, which is usually sung before the Gospel is read.

Well, it used to be part of it.  That’s all been changed, and one might go along time before one heard the words to the Dies Irae, in any language, let alone heard them sung in Latin, or chanted, or anything.  Berlioz writes well, but I kind of think he overdoes it a bit.

These are the words in English:

Day of Wrath

Day of wrath and doom impending,

David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,

Heaven and earth in ashes ending.

O what fear man’s bosom rendeth,

When from heaven the Judge descendeth,

On whose sentence all dependeth.

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,

Through earth’s sepulchers it ringeth,

All before the throne it bringeth.

Death is struck, and nature quaking,

All creation is awaking,

To its Judge an answer making.

Lo, the book exactly worded,

Wherein all hath been recorded,

Thence shall judgment be awarded.

    When the Judge His seat attaineth,

And each hidden deed arraigneth,

Nothing unavenged remaineth.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading?

Who for me be interceding

When the just are mercy needing?

   King of majesty tremendous,

Who dost free salvation send us,

Fount of pity, then befriend us.

Think, kind Jesus, my salvation

Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation,

Leave me not to reprobation.

Faint and weary Thou hast sought me,

On the Cross of suffering bought me,

Shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous Judge, for sin’s pollution

Grant Thy gift of absolution,

Ere that day of retribution.

Guilty now I pour my moaning,

All my shame with anguish owning,

Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning.

Through the sinful woman shriven,

Through the dying thief forgiven,

Thou to me a hope hast given.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing,

Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,

Rescue me from fires undying.

  With Thy sheep a place provide me,

From the goats afar divide me,

To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.

When the wicked are confounded,

Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,

Call me with Thy Saints surrounded.

  Low I kneel with heart’s submission,

See, like ashes, my contrition,

Help me in my last condition.

Ah! That day of tears and mourning,

From the dust of earth returning,

Man for judgment must prepare him,

Spare, O God, in mercy spare him.

Lord, all-pitying, Jesus blest,

Grant them Thine eternal rest. Amen.


Berlioz does get a bit overwrought, don’t you think?   But sometimes…sometimes one needs one’s attention to be attracted.  Find yourself, find yourself a version of the Dies Irae rendered in the original chant.  Sit quietly. Read the words. Think.  Pray.  That’s good, too.  Really.


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